The Indiana Pacers from time to time get serious challenges from teams, even in the weak Eastern conference. However, the Boston Celtics, a legitimate playoff team according to the standings, looked like a bunch of college guys teaming up to play against pros, and the result was as you’d expect it to be.
The Pacers easily won the game 106-79, resting all of their starters by the end of the game except for Lance Stephenson so he’d reach his third triple double of the season. Stephenson finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, adding some nice ankle breaking moves to his CV which left Courtney Lee stunned and broken on the floor as Stephenson knocked down the jumper.
We’re starting the game off with high energy and we’re ending the game with high energy and in between we’re maintaining that energy. It wears teams down, and I think that’s been the case these past couple games.
Paul George led the Pacers with the easiest 24 points he got this season, shooting 9-of-13 from the field. The Pacers scored 50 points in the paint, and seemed like they were winning every possible power or hustle battle between them and Celtics players, simply overpowering their way to victory. Time and time again, Kelly Olynyk, Jared Sullinger and Vitor Faverani remained on the floor while someone dunked over them. It happened to be Roy Hibbert plenty of times, finishing with 15 points.
The Celtics moved the ball, but not quickly enough, and found it very difficult to get good shots. They made only 38.1% of their field goals, turned the ball over 16 times and made it to the free throw line only 13 times, shooting 69.2%. They finished with only 22 points in the paint – without the ability to create any easy points, it was just never going to be anything close to an upset between two teams that might meet in a playoff series. By the looks of it, a clean sweep is what we have to expect.
Besides the win, the Pacers are focusing on bringing Danny Granger up to speed. He came off the bench for a second straight game. He was only 1-of-7 in his return game, but looked a lot sharper in this one, knocking down four shots from beyond the arc, finishing with 12 points. Before his injuries, Granger was an All-Star, but he has played a total of only 7 games over the last two years, so 12 points with 50% from the field is about the best you can expect from him. How he’ll do in three-four months is a lot more important to the Pacers.
Despite having plenty of young players, or maybe because of it, the Celtics seem to crumble when they have to play back to back nights. They’ve had eight back-to-back series so far, getting swept in five of them. However, despite being only 12-17, which includes a losing record at home, they are among the top in the East, which might help explain why the Pacers are 22-5 and finding it quite difficult changing their focus and level of play when they’re up against Western conference teams.